Sitiawan history states that two large elephants, overloaded with heavy tin ore, drowned after getting stuck in the mud in the local river. Workers failed to rescue them, gave up and left the helpless elephants to their doom. Sadly, one elephant could have freed itself, but they stayed together until the rising tide ended both of their lives. “Kampung Sungai Gajah Mati” is the original name of Sitiawan, which means, “the village by the river where two large elephants died.” From this story, the name “setiakawan,” or “loyal friend,” slowly took hold. Over the years, the name gradually changed to “Sitiawan.” It became a thriving Foochow (Chinese: Fuzhou) settlement of industrious migrants, mostly from the district of Kutien in Fuzhou, China.
In September 1903, the settlement got a boost with the arrival of more than 360 Christian Foochows desperate to escape the poverty in Fujian. They were led by two Chinese pastors and settled down in what is today known as Kampung Koh. Most of these immigrants worked in rubber plantations in Sitiawan. The Foochows also built four wells, two in the 1930s and another two in the 1950s. These heritage wells still exist but are no longer used.